Vrushali Lad Writes a Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear PMji,

I want you to read to the end of this letter. And I want you to make me feel more secure in my city and country, by ensuring that every step is taken for my safety.

You are a wonderful man, and your deputy, Mr. Prithviraj Chavan, is an able and intelligent Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Unfortunately for Mr. Chavan, much like Barack Obama in the US, he inherited the highest office in the State at the worst possible time in the State’s history. Coming as he did to replace the other Chavan – who made an infamous reputation for himself in the Adarsh Housing Scam – Prithviraj Chavan also inherited a Stateful of rising crime, rising malnutrition, rising corruption, and rising police apathy.

It is to this last that I wish to point your attention to, and I daresay, of our Chief Minister to, because the way I see it, rising crime is indeed directly proportional to police apathy. Coming on the heels of such absurdities as the arrest of two girls based on a Facebook status message, the police in the State today are caught in a curious tangle of corruption, inaction and the forgetfulness that often marks them – the forgetfulness of their own duty.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of the Facebook arrests saga, because such incidents are fewer and far between, which is why they make it to the front pages of our newspapers. I want you

consider the other side of the issue, that of police inaction in everyday life, and which is so little in scope but so rampant that all of society is collectively surprised when the police do deign to help the citizens or crack a case without asking for a bribe.

Two years ago, my house was burgled on a Sunday afternoon during the one hour I left my home to visit relatives. The police who came to view the site insisted that I had erred in leaving my wardrobe keys in plain view of the thieves, thus abetting the theft of all my jewellery, the laptop that contained the only proofs of my professional life as a writer, my new iPod and spare cash. They have still not found the loot.

A friend of mine went to court to claim a gold chain that had been snatched from his aunt’s neck as she shopped in a busy market, but the chain the police insisted belonged to his aunt was somebody else’s property, and he had to pay a Rs 500 bribe in the court premises to claim even that.

The duty officer at the local police station in my area sternly told a weeping woman who her husband had thrown out of the house after a dispute, that she must have instigated the man in some way, and that she should pray to be let back in.

As a reporter who also worked the graveyard shift for a city newspaper, I often had to visit police stations late in the night. My male colleagues insisted on us girls wearing thick jackets and full-length pants before visiting the police at night – the cops’ leers soon explained why.

There are spates of unauthorised hawkers dotting the city’s several streets. At night, police patrol vans eat at these places for free, and even pick up an entire week’s worth of vegetables in exchange for letting the hawkers sit at those spots.

Several police patrol bikes slow down at night on spotting sex workers. After a few minutes’ conversation, they go away. Sometimes the girls go with them.

When my father went to get his passport processed at the local police station, the smiling officer guided him through the procedures before walking him out. My dazed father was astounded that no bribe had been asked – our neighbours had paid Rs 300 per passport in their family.

In several years of being a reporter, I have not yet seen a police officer instantly offering to file an FIR, whatever the crime. But I have heard some very creative excuses for why an FIR cannot be filed.

And despite the city’s collective rage against the Men in Khaki, we still salute the force every year on 26/11, because it was the city’s cops that gave us a live terrorist.

Dear Prime Minister, everybody respects authority, and everybody reveres it when the person in authority carries out his duties because he remembers, at all moments, that he is a public servant. However, we are being made to forcefully respect the police force, because failure to do so rebounds on us in several mysterious ways. Refusing to pay a bribe leads to harassment at the police station. A wrong complaint filed against an innocent man leads to the man being brought to the police station and openly threatened with arrest, even before the case is investigated. Arguing with a cop leads to outright assault on the streets.

And what is the maximum punishment for a cop not carrying out his duty? A mere transfer, or at the most,  a suspension. Tell us, is this fair? If citizens fail to pay their taxes, clear their bills, or worse, look the other way or lie when a murder is being committed in front of their eyes, are they let off with a mere reprimand? What stops the Government from taking punitive action against the police when they err? Is the Government afraid that an already under-staffed police force will strike work?

Do you really think it makes a difference, in the current situation, if the police report to duty or not? Haven’t your country’s citizens been left to fend for themselves for the longest time – without security inside or outside their homes?

Respectfully yours,

Vrushali Lad

Image Courtesy: [The Viewspaper]

Disclaimer: The above article is the personal opinion of the author and not of the publication.